In April of my freshman year, I crossed the invisible boundary of 45th Street on foot for the first time since coming to Penn. I had walked to the Green Line Cafe on 42nd and some thrift shops on 45th, but had never truly gone another block into the city.
Instead of popping, the Penn bubble had insulated my freshman experience and cushioned my social life into the small sphere of Locust and Walnut streets. While it is convenient to have everything you need within a five-block radius, the insular nature of existing in such a small social sphere can be more damaging than one might think. Emotional growth or peace is stunted the second your back hits the ceiling of that Penn bubble. But it’s not as scary as you think to break free.
Upperclassmen I worked with at the Kelly Writers House told me that moving off campus was the best decision they made, and last year, I eagerly opened my computer in search of the freedom they claimed helped them decompress after stressful days; a freedom afforded to them by distance. I faced some financial difficulty in regard to balancing a convenient location with relatively acceptable living standards, but it was easier than I expected to find a place I both liked and could afford (especially when financial aid packages can be applied to off-campus living).
The choice to move off campus was financial, but personal as well. The expense of living in a dorm seemed disproportionate to the quality of living, and it was actually fairly uncomplicated to find an apartment for cheaper than Penn charges for its dorms. My 12-month lease amounts to less than Penn charges for on-campus housing where students live for only 10 months, many of them without full kitchens and with roommates. This obviously doesn't encompass every apartment complex in the city, but don’t forget that The Radian isn't the only place you can live in if you move off campus.
College can brand you with a mark of independence and freedom, but this freedom felt truly complete when I signed my lease. Having an apartment allows me to leave Penn’s campus at the end of a long day and see people on the street not wearing Pennface. I greet neighbors in the morning who aren’t in my 8 a.m. recitation, and that’s O.K.; actually, I find it healthy. Not everyone needs to be constantly surrounded by activity and hustle.
If your personality is suited to the constancy of on-campus living, the endless stream of events and plans and parties, then by all means, enjoy your time and take advantage. However, Penn makes it exceedingly easy to distill the entire world into its old brick buildings, and we must not forget that more exists out there.
Leaving campus and having a space in a different social sphere — a social sphere unaffiliated with college in general — can provide you with the healthy emotional break you sometimes need. Not to mention the physical act of walking to an off-campus living situation is the perfect excuse to skip a gym session every now and again. Having a full kitchen and access to your own groceries can lead to healthier eating (G-d knows I needed that after a freshman year of surviving off bagels and non-perishable snacks).
Living in the Quad is seen as an invaluable and necessary experience, but not everyone needs to be constantly saturated in the negative culture of sleep deprivation and 24/7 activity. Everyone deserves a break, but it’s easier to catch your breath and take this break when you’re not living in the epicenter of the rumbling recreation.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College sophomore from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org